WORDS: REBECCA BLAND
IMAGES: HONOR ELLIOTT
The queen stage of this year’s edition of The Women’s Tour took on some of Wales’ most ferocious climbs and finished atop the Black Mountain. After yesterday’s challenging route, the general classification had seen a shake-up, but Lizzie Holden remained inside the top 25 with two stages remaining.
This final climber’s stage saw more of the same aggressive racing, with a breakaway forming as early as the first QOM. DS Julia explained how the race unfolded.
“It was a very hard stage today, there were two QOMs close to the beginning, and a group of 11 got away. We were behind in the peloton, but then everything came back together for the final climb, the Black Mountain – a really tough one.”
On the way to Black Mountain, two intermediate sprints were contested, in which Maike finished second in one after a battle against Clara Copponi.
“The team did well,” continued Julia. “We gained some points for the sprints jersey so Maike will be in it for the final day and I think it will be an exciting stage tomorrow.”
Maike’s impressive work this week means she now only needs to finish tomorrow’s stage to win the overall sprint classification. The team has worked well this week to provide leadouts and keep Maike in a position to contest the intermediate sprints, so winning the jersey will be a great reward for the team’s efforts.
After the final intermediate sprint, the road – unsurprisingly – went up once more, but this time for the summit finish of Black Mountain. Exposed and thus windy, riders battled a troublesome headwind the whole way up. Jesse worked well for Lizzie pacing her up the lower slopes of the climb until Ellen van Dijk of Trek-Segafredo’s efforts in the middle of the climb split the group. Unfortunately, Lizzie lost contact with the leaders, crossing the line in 22nd, but she has maintained her overall position of 21st heading into the final day of the race.
“Lizzie didn’t have such a good day today” added Julia, “So it was more about surviving up the climb, but tomorrow is a new day.”
Not every day can be a success, and nobody can be on top form every single stage. Lizzie kept her damage to a minimum, and can still improve on her GC position in the final day’s racing tomorrow.
Stage six will start in Chipping Norton and head towards Oxford where it is expected a final sprint will round out the 2022 Women’s Tour.
Highlights from today’s stage can be found on ITV4 at 8 PM.